December 11, 2012
TAX CUTS: Tell Congress to stop holding middle class hostage
The future of tax cuts passed under Presidents Obama and Bush are at the center of the current "fiscal cliff" debate. Do we extend key middle-class tax cuts on incomes below $250,000 and improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, or do we allow these tax credits to expire in order to extend tax cuts for incomes above $250,000—the wealthiest 1.4% of North Carolinians?
In July, the U.S. Senate voted to extend the tax cuts and tax credit expansions for middle-income Americans while allowing the tax cuts on incomes above $250,000 to expire. Unfortunately, leaders in the U.S. House are refusing to allow a vote on this proposal during the lame duck session, instead demanding that Congress support a plan that extends all of the tax cuts, including those on incomes over $250,000.
Since all these tax cuts are set to expire in January 2013 without an agreement from the White House and both houses of Congress, House leaders are in effect holding the middle-class tax cuts and tax credits hostage to ensure that the wealthiest people in the country continue to see big tax breaks.
Fortunately, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has introduced a “discharge petition” for HR 15, the legislation containing the Senate plan to extend tax cuts for the middle class while allowing them to expire for incomes over $250,000. In order to succeed, 218 Members of Congress must sign on. Tell your Member of Congress to support middle-class tax cuts and sign the petition for HR 15.
UNEMPLOYMENT: Proposal will cause extreme harm to NC families
Policymakers unveiled a proposal last week that will cause extreme harm to unemployed families and North Carolina's economy for years to come by severely cutting unemployment benefits, eligibility, and the duration of benefits, all while doing nothing to address the long-term financial footing of the unemployment insurance system.
Thanks to debt cause by a series of tax cuts given to employers in the '90s — not to mention historic levels of unemployment — North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system has borrowed $2.5 billion from the federal government in order to pay benefits. Those tax cuts for businesses occurred in robust economic times, but this proposal, if enacted, will require unemployed workers to pay for them at a time when they are struggling to make ends meet.
The proposal is the most extreme reduction of benefit amounts, duration, and eligibility that any state has enacted or seriously considered. NC does need real reform of its unemployment insurance financing system, but such reforms must be informed by the lessons of the past and the needs of the future. The hope is more thoughtful deliberation and an opportunity for public input will be allowed when the measure is taken up by the legislature in 2013. Too much is at stake for North Carolina's economy and for the thousands of unemployed North Carolinians for whom unemployment benefits provide a stopgap against financial ruin while they look for work.
IMMIGRATION DEBATE: Committee backs off harsh new laws
Last week, the House Select Committee on the State's Role in Immigration policy backed off its plans to pursue harsh immigration laws in North Carolina, keeping the path open towards a fair and humane policy that can keep families together, protects workers, and supports businesses.
Countless polls have shown that many Americans believe in creating a common sense immigration process that recognizes the contributions of people moving here, reunites families and creates a roadmap to citizenship for new Americans who aspire to be citizens. America deserves nothing less. Even Speaker Thom Tillis has stated that he has no interest in a sweeping anti-immigrant bill in North Carolina, and former President George W. Bush has reiterated his support for reforming our broken immigration system.
Hopefully, the General Assembly will approach immigration fairly and pragmatically in 2013 by soliciting input from a "wide array of interested stakeholders," as recommended by the Committee, as well as rethinking some of their recommendations. Local law enforcement should not be utilized as the long arm of immigration law, and the problem of border security should be solved through policy changes and not with wasteful spending on new fences and drones.
WORKER VIOLATIONS: U.S., Mexican workers denied protections
The Mexican government has sided with migrant workers and is now seeking consultation with the United States to remedy violations against traveling fair and carnival workers.
Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. and allies — including the North Carolina Justice Center — filed petitions on behalf of traveling fair and carnival workers who were recruited to work in the U.S. on temporary H-2B visas. They alleged that the United States is in violation of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC) because the U.S. routinely has allowed companies to pay H-2B workers less than the minimum hourly wage and has denied them overtime and reimbursement for travel, visa and recruitment costs. In addition, workers have faced barriers in asserting their rights and enforcing existing worker protection laws.
The Mexican National Administrative Office agreed that such violations had occurred denying workers protection under the NAALC, and called on cooperation between the Mexican and U.S. Departments of Labor to examine what is being done to guarantee rights for H-2 workers.
The opinion is both groundbreaking and timely, given the renewed interest in addressing immigration reform across the U.S.
BUILDING A BETTER NC EVENTS: Forum on economy, working families
North Carolina citizens can help write the next chapter in the story of our economy. Communities across the state will play host to a community conversation event entitled “Building a Stronger North Carolina,” led by staff from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, and United Way of North Carolina. Through this interactive session, members of the community will have the opportunity to respond to critical questions regarding key legislation and learn about ways to get engaged in issues that will affect the future of the state.
They will discuss top issues in state public policy, including the impact of current economic conditions on working families, and how the state budget directly affected education, health care and financial stability. Presentations will be held in communities across the state.
- Guilford and Forsyth County. January 9, 9:00 a.m. 8818 West Market St., Girl Scouts’ Carolinas Peaks2Piedmont Triad Service Center, Colfax
- Wake County. January 10, 3:00 p.m. NCAE, 700 South Salisbury Street, Raleigh
An additional event will be held in Greenville on January 8, 2013. More details are available at here.